Saturday, 29 December 2007

Putney School of Art & Design

This school, usually abbreviated to PSAD, has been going for over a hundred years, and is found behind Putney High Street. They don’t at the time of writing have their own website, but are hosted on a page provided by Wandsworth Council.
I have been teaching Sculpture from Life there since February 2005 . The students are drawn from the general public, and some have been attending for some seasons, in some cases over several years, booking their slots well in advance. Their interest in the school and their practice of sculpture is quite refreshing. Below is work done by Annie Barclay (first two) and Margaret Maitland (next two).

In October 2006 I ran a one-week course on silversmithing, and am hopeful that there may be further future courses. Below are examples of some of the work produced on that course.

Below we have work from Janet Hill, Sally Shillito, Sue Kochalski (two pictures), Leslie Watts and Alison Conwick.
The last photo, with Alison, is the only record of a quick burst of creative effort, giving supple and accurate modelling in very limited time, since the piece was consigned to the clay bin after being photographed.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Experience for the asking...

I am pleased to be able to put the spotlight on Mary Winchester. See her web page here. I am as much one of her students as she ever was of mine, although she did attend a bronze casting class I gave some years ago, maybe 1998. Now retired from teaching, her incisive and capable mind has mastered many things over the years, not least sculpture and painting. The two pictures on the left illustrate a winged horse figure, in clay before firing; and the next was a commission for a 'dog portrait', again before firing and seen in situ in the kiln. The fourth is of a cow's head in miniature, cast in bronze, and the last is "kneeling bull", work in progress (subsequently fired).
However I wouldn't like to give the impression that her art work is restricted to animal motifs - her series of turbanned Arab heads, among many other types of work, have been very popular.
I have always found Mary's experienced views on art and aesthetics very useful to my own work; so hopefully the allotment where I imagine she wields spade and scythe will not pre-empt all her time.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

John Lewis Partnership Ceramics

The John Lewis Partnership has been financing staff to go on art courses for over seven decades, but sadly this sponsorship is due to finish at the end of 2007. For the past six years, I have been priviliged to run a ceramics class for this group, and a very small sample of their work is illustrated here.

This handsome head (the one being held that is) I am told is a 'woodwose' (Anglo-Saxon wudowosa, Wikipedia), a kind of hairy 'wild man of the woods'. It has subsequently been fired and glazed, and looks quite arresting. It was made by Barry Denman (holding it) who also made the striking fish bowl.
Bridget Pavitt had a series of specialities, starting I think with exotic fungi, travelling through bowls and planters, and ending with very life-like sinuous fish which are now installed in a stream at her home.
The lazy group of terracotta seals was made by Alan Reynolds, shown before firing and glazing. And the next picture features a panda, ready for firing in the kiln, made by this very prolific artist.
Pictured are two sets of Spanish-Columbian or Aztec style silver crosses, both originally carved by Alan in hard wax, then cast in sterling silver.
Finally we have Jan Andrews, an absolute whiz at artistry, holding one of her deeply-fissured and oxide-stained pots.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Skulls galore

A series of small human skulls were carved in hard green wax by Wolf Winter. They were cast in sterling silver in two or three sessions after investing with the usual ceramic shell binder (see tutor's site) - the reason for the multiple sessions was that some didn't cast well.


On a side note, another student took a very-well carved wax skull to a casting place in Hatton Garden, and was later given in return a badly-damaged result in silver. He was rather annoyed and felt he was treated in a very off-hand way - I have not mentioned the name of the company since I am uncertain of the liability issues involved. However, it does perhaps highlight the fact that casting is more of an art than science, and never guarantees perfect results all the time.

Skull link

Anyway, the skulls were sanded with a sanding stick before polishing with metal polish, well cleaned in soap and water, then threaded with jump rings and a lobster-claw to give a rather heavy but effective bracelet.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Doctor, ceramicist, artist,,,

This posting is my tribute to the talents of Carl Chang, a GP who attended my Open Studio sessions some ten years or more ago. He is a very talented individual, who runs a large and thriving practice in Enfield, but has 'other lives' as an artist. I wonder if I can persuade him to send me photos of the dark and disturbing Chinese funereal pots he made at the time of the Open Studio classes.

Fortunately for me and the world at large his mood lightened after a couple of years, and he developed his own Ĺ“uvre, a little of which is illustrated here. One of his particular skills (apart from general flair on the wheel) is that of free-hand decoration round the rim of his bowls, whether painted or fretted. Carl has also spent a considerable amount of effort on portrait painting in oils, but I don't have any photos.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Three necklaces

A trio of very appealing necklaces were made by Alan Reynolds. The first used some of the fine silver recovered from scrap (see tutor's site) was melted and cast into a couple of ingots; these were then rolled into sheet. Alan rolled some of this sheet down to about 1mm in thickness, with a layer of copper mesh between the fine silver and the rollers.


This imprinted a mesh pattern. Then he hammered out a series of discs from this textured sheet, in sizes ranging from about 5mm - 18mm. Each disc was domed by hammering carefully into the appropriate depression in a doming block, and then came the tedious bit - drilling a 1.8mm hole in each dome. Finally the domes were arranged onto a carefully-chosen sterling chain with jump rings. Two of the domes were used as ear rings. Unfortunately the photo is a little out-of-focus, partly the problem of coping with the contrast between the black velvet of the presentation case, and the fine silver - sorry Alan!
The second necklace was made from a collection of American nickels he had brought back from the States; we were uncertain of the composition but felt they may have been zinc-rich. At any event, they didn't behave well under a jeweller's torch! They were domed in a doming block then polished in a rotary tumbler - in many instances this revealed a coppery tint round the periphery. Finally they were centrally drilled then strung back-to-back in pairs on a chain.
The last necklace made use of some bought Pozzuoli volcanic spheres, and some ceramic beads made by Alan; after firing to biscuit, they were glazed with matte black with a central portion of mirror-black 'pewter' glaze. The volcanic rock spheres (which are very light due to the amount of air in the structure) were threaded on a chain with alternating ceramic beads, using jump rings as spacers.

PMC - Precious metal clay

PMC is the name given to a product originally patented, marketed and named by Matsubishi Industries, consisting of fine pure silver powder obtained by reclamation of silver from the photographic industry. The powder is mixed with an organic binder and water, and sold as a kind of grey putty.

It can be shaped by most of the same processes as any other plastic medium. After drying, it is then made permanent by 'sintering'; in practice, this means baking it at a dull red heat for some time (the time depends on the grade of PMC and can be as short as a few minutes or as long as an hour or so). The leaf illustrated here was made by Sarah Cohen, (I think) a post-doctoral bio-chem lab worker; seen here modelling it as a pendant. This low-tech method of sintering produces fine silver which is light and strong enough for jewellery, but cannot compete with the strength of fabricated silver.

Moonlighting with a purpose

The picture is of a ring made by Abby Bentinck. She was attending the class with a friend, Tamsin Silvey; both were studying for their BA History of Art at university, and temporarily working at Earls Court over the summer period. During this time they attended one of my evening jewellery classes, and Abby came up with what seemed to be a nice but fairly unremarkable carved wax. However on casting into silver and polishing, it really turned from duckling into swan.

Variation on a theme...

The picture on the left is of a sterling silver pendant designed and made by Beth Simpson. She made a variety of things including the sterling silver dragonfly, centre. However she fell out of love with the pendant and it hung around in the studio for a couple of years. In a mood of mischief, I rolled it much flatter, then used it as an exercise in setting 4mm cubic zirconia, as on the right.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Electro-etching and other texturing

The picture in the middle is of a copper pendant, formed and hammer-textured, by Dr Sian Renfrey. She also has some recent work involving electro-etching of a sandwich of copper and silver sheet. An early example is shown on the left, also as a pendant. The picture on the right is a wedding ring in white gold with a leaf-texture pattern rolled into it, neatly soldered along a diagonal edge and with a legend stamped on the inside, by Merrin Jensen.